The Clark County Council is in the process of formally approving a resolution in opposition to perpetual tolling of Interstate 5 and Interstate 205.
During a “council time” meeting on Oct. 19, councilors discussed the resolution and a “white paper” document that analyzed the tolling plan proposed by Oregon. The meeting featured a continuation of the discussion on the resolution, which states the council “is opposed to tolling the I-5 Bridge, and the I-5 and I-205 corridors as proposed.”
When first discussed at a similar council time meeting on Oct. 12, Councilor Richard Rylander said Oregon proposed to not only enact tolls on the I-5 bridge but also put forward the idea to toll portions of I-5 through Portland and on I-205.
“As proposed right now, the entire process by the state of Oregon will have a significant impact on residents of Southwest Washington,” Rylander said.
He acknowledged that tolling for specific projects is viable, but expressed concern about the effect Oregon’s current plan would have on Clark County residents.
Council chair Karen Bowerman noted Clark County’s dependence on jobs in Portland.
“If they didn’t have to go across the bridges and could get high wage jobs right here, they would, at least so they tell us,” Bowerman said. “But for a while, until we get those jobs developed, we’re going to have a lot of people who would be affected very much.”
Councilor Gary Medvigy took issue with the rationale behind some of the tolling. Traffic engineers have stated it would help manage congestion on the often overcrowded interstates.
“It is absolutely a misnomer to say that it’s value pricing or congestion pricing. All you are doing is penalizing people who can’t commute during a different hour, or just charging people who have discretionary income and don’t care,” Medvigy said.
At the Oct. 19 meeting, Rylander presented an expanded conclusion to the resolution. It noted the county council “understands that tolls may be necessary to build large infrastructure projects like the I-5 bridge. If specific tolls related to the construction to the I-5 project only that sunset after a predetermined period of time can be proposed, then they should be considered.”
Concerns over perpetual tolling remained at the center of the second round of discussions on the resolution. Bowerman related the scenario to something that happened in Kansas when she lived there. Tolls were initially designed to fund a road project but didn’t end when construction was completed.
“The maintenance expenses continue and so there is always justification for continuing (tolls),” Bowerman said. “I would want to be sure that in the language that we suggest, that we don’t allow for that.”
To meet that end, Bowerman said the resolution should only accept tolls to support the “initial” construction. While Bowerman is generally opposed to tolling as a whole, she said she would be comfortable with that compromise.
“I’m not sure that I support them being there in the first place, but I can go along with that if we’re specific when the tolls stop,” Bowerman said.
Councilor Julie Olson was more accepting of the reality that the current I-5 bridge replacement project assumed a variable rate toll as the white paper stated.
“I don’t think it’s really realistic for us to absolutely oppose all tolls for the construction of a major infrastructure project like that, but that it’s going to be one of multiple funding sources as these projects are constructed,” Olson said.
The white paper lays out a number of concerns over current tolling plans, critiquing prior analysis that stated tolls would save travel time and would have environmental benefits, among other aspects. Olson wants to delineate the bridge replacement project in the white paper, which she said currently looks at the interstate system as a whole and includes Interstate 205 more broadly.
Medvigy said he is ready to sign the resolution once it is complete, though he acknowledged the county doesn’t have much sway over the final plans that are made by the project’s decision makers.
“We don’t legislate. We don’t even have a seat at the table on this issue,” he said.
An undated draft of the resolution will be presented to the council in a third meeting on the topic on Oct. 26. The council plans to sign and adopt it on Nov. 1.
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Wednesday, October 26, 2022 Report this